August 8, 2012

Naughty Mom

H starts preschool again in two weeks. Part of me is sad that the summer has flown past. I still feel like we’re unpacking and settling into our new life in Illinois. How could it be that it’s already time to go back to school and settle into that routine?

But there is a part of me that I think of as Naughty Mom. Naughty Mom is jumping up and down excited that H will be in school three days a week. I will have so much more time to finish unpacking and sorting. To run errands more quickly and efficiently. To get my haircut without growing eyes in the back of my head to keep an eye on her.

This makes me feel guilty. I adore staying home with H. It’s something I always wanted to do. My mom was home with us, and as a kid I loved knowing that she’d be there. I loved coming home to her after school. I want to do that for my kids. When she learns something new or tells me some hilarious story she’s invented, I’m thrilled that she’s doing that with me and not with a stranger. I’m more than glad to be her best friend right now.

More than that, I’m really lucky I can stay home. Not every mom even has that choice. I know lots of people who would probably love to be home full time but can’t afford it. We’re in a great place where I can have the option to stay home.

Despite all that, I discovered a long time ago that I am not cut out to be the mom with unflagging energy who is ready for a romp every moment and has fun activities and crafts planned, accompanied by nutritional snacks and developmentally suitable outings. When I write it that way, I don’t actually know any mom who is like that. If you do, check her sanity, then nominate her for sainthood. I find that I need a few hours of alone time here and there to save my patience and my sanity.

In practice a lot of staying at home has turned out to be fitting in necessary errands, like the grocery store, into a very small child’s schedule. Another example is trying to read books to her while I fold laundry. You generally try to run a house and be a full time play mate at the same time. Like so many moms before me, I now lament the days when she didn’t care where we went, what she wore, or even really what she ate. At three she is her own tiny woman who has definite opinions on everything; opinions that I readily respect, but can’t always allow to reign. Now it’s all about trying to coax her to the potty with enough wiggle time to leave the house promptly, but not so much that she’ll have to pee in the middle of the commissary. And may God have mercy on my soul if I forget to bring snacks and a drink with us everywhere we go.

Naughty Mom is the one who contemplates selling her to the gypsies. She’s the one who just wants to sit quietly in Barnes and Noble and soak up the rows of books. She stares at the stacks longingly every Monday as we march to Story Time. Naughty Mom also has a bad spending habit when it comes to books, so it’s best to keep an extra close eye on her in places like Barnes and Noble.

Every mom has a Naughty Mom. Every mom has a day when she counts the minutes until bed time so she can pour herself a relaxing cup of tea/glass of wine. Every mom is mildly excited to regain some freedom when school time comes. So why do I feel guilty about it?

When did we come to expect ourselves to not only stay home but to love and adore every moment of it? Who told us it had to be that way? It wasn’t my mom, who went back to school to finish her degree as soon as I started first grade. And I’m thrilled that she did. I was proud of her then, and I’m even more proud now as a mom myself. She knew she needed a grown up life, not just a kid life. It wasn’t my friends telling me that, some of whom stay home and some who are back at work. They’re the ones pouring the wine, after all. It wasn’t my husband, who never expected me to stay home, but was glad I wanted to.

As Radiohead would say, “You do it yourself you do. And that’s why it really hurts.” I told me that I was expected to love every minute of parenting my daughter. I am the one who wonders if I’m really doing a good job if we just spend the day watching a movie and doing laundry. I’m the one who envies the moms I know with a more educational background, who can, in my eyes, properly guide their little ones.

So, Jamie, let’s check and see how H is doing with your sub-par parenting. Sweet and polite? Check. Knows her ABCs and 123s? Check. Can write her name? Check. Can nearly go potty on her own? Check. Is happy and healthy? Check.

Now I laugh at myself a bit. Yeah, clearly I am screwing her up. Maybe instead of feeling bad about Naughty Mom’s excitement at free time this fall, I should just go with it. Because you know what? H is not being sent to sit in a room and stare at a wall. She’s going somewhere fun to hang out with kids and color and sing and she comes home happy. And if she can come home to an equally happy, recharged, fully-engaged Mommy, then we both win.

read to be read at


  1. Oh, I love that you quoted Radiohead. You are not just a Naughty Mom but a cool one as well. Love that this piece addresses the For Realz of staying at home head on. Great piece. Good points. Rock on. Erin

  2. Hahah I didn't realize how much nearly ALL moms enjoy their kids going back to school til I starting blogging/reading mommy blogs. Don't feel guilty, apparently its a universal thing.

  3. I love that you labeled that part of yourself Naughty Mom, even though it's really not naughty. We all need a break from time to time! I am sure this hits home for a lot of us!

  4. Amen to this. Mommy needs a break sometimes. If my daughters and I had to spend every moment together, we would be staring contest masters.

  5. This did "hit home" for me (as Stacie commented above). However I am really working hard at moving past the guilt. Blogging has helped me to reflect on all that I do fill my days with - the things that I sometimes forget - and has allowed me to see that most of the time the "Naughty Mom" in me is justified :)

    1. This post was enlightening to write. By the time I was done, I also felt like Naughty Mom had some really valid points. Thanks for reading.

  6. I dare you to find a blog entry of this flavour without the guilt. I used to think it was because I was a special kind of dysfunctional, but now I know it just comes with the territory. You can love your kid and still need/want space from her. They're not mutually exclusive.

    We need to be more gentle with ourselves. I'm going to challenge myself to not say, "and I feel so guilty about it" next time I write a post about the paradoxes of parenting. Because I know I even write that as a disclaimer. Like, "I loved talking to adults today." Small print: I felt guilty about it though so you can't think I'm a bad parent and don't love my child.

    (Also: It took me an hour to post this comment because I don't have most of the profiles requested to post and really didn't want to use my livejournal account. Could you add a name/url option, please?)

    Great post. My blog's subtitle is "fighting the war on shame," because I believe the more we talk about this stuff, the more we squish the guilt that comes with breathing.


    1. Thanks for the suggestion. I did change it to make commenting a little easier. And thanks for reading.

  7. It's natural, and yes - it feels naughty! To me, my kids are so much more stimulated and cared for in the preschool they've attended. My poor little one was stuck just doing errands with me all morning until I sent her to school for half the day. Now, she's happier, she naps, and she eats lunch! Win win win.

  8. Well said. I'm sure every mom feels the same way. Sounds like you're doing a fantastic job. Because clearly you love and care for her. That's all that really matters, right? Right???

  9. You really nailed my feelings on the subject too!
    We are also in a great place financially, and I don't need to go back to work.... but I am. In less than a month.
    It took me a lot of soul searching to discover (and come to terms with)the fact that I function better as a Mom when I am not with my three young boys all day, every day.
    I am not a failure, and your naughty Mommy is one smart cookie.
    Thanks for sharing this! It was just what I needed!

    1. I'm so glad my blog helped! Being a Mom is such a jumble of conflicting emotions. I always find it comforting to know that someone else feels the same. Glad I could do that for you! Good luck with your new job. I hope you enjoy it.


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